Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Quick Update

I'll be heading back to the states on August 4th (evening departure) or August 5th (morning departure). NAPIRE has extra money, so they're taking us sightseeing up to the Guanacaste province where we will see:

The Palo Verde biological station
Rincon de la Viaje (active volcano)
Cloud Forest
Hot Springs
Boiling Mud
Other Amazing and Beautiful Things To Be Later Reported

So, for those of you planning to call me ASAP after I arrive in the states...holdja horses.

And for those of you with whom I made plans for the first week of August, I'm very sorry, but I won't be heading through California at all. I'm really sorry, but logistically, it just doesn't make any sense.

That is all.

Friday, July 20, 2007

And then Costa Rica was washed away



Today I went out into the field by myself, and that was fun. For a while the sun was out, and then it rained and rained. It downpoured, according to Tracy. So, I sat there for 20 minutes on my piece of plastic bag, huddled with my backpack (which contained my camera--in a ziploc) under my umbrella. It was raining so hard that there were solid streams of water coming off the corners. I saw a furry caterpillar climb up a stem and lift its head and tail and just wait...it had drops caught in its fur.

On the way back, the river had risen so high that it was difficult to get across--I zipped off my pantlegs (hooray for convertible pants!!!!), took off my socks, and waded across with my boots absolutely full of water. I saw a beautiful butterfly, and realized when I was back at the gardens that I'd forgotten my umbrella somewhere.



I also saw some amazing ginger flowers. This is just one of several.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ari gets the comments prize

Thank you for commenting!!!!!

Also, the scabies meds we're taking are the exact same thing (different dosage) that people in the US give their dogs in heartworm pills.

Resistance is futile: you will be fumigated!!!!!!

It is really, really cold in the tropics, did you know that?



It's really cold. That's me at Cuerici.




That is me at Las Cruces...this afternoon. And yes, that's a fleece hat and scarf you see me wearing. And I'm wearing jeans and socks and a sweatshirt, and sitting under a warm computer and three blankets. 2400m at Cuerici. 1200m at Las Cruces...what's wrong with this picture (these pictures)?





So, for comparison, that is me at La Selva...completely soaked from the humidity and the temperature.





And just for fun, this is where I slept at Cuerici. I was the only one who wanted to sleep on boards instead of a bed, even though boards meant a personal fireplace that four people could sit in (if there were no fire. I also, consequently, got my own room--the lab. But you can go read about it in the actual entry if you want more detail than this.

Tonight there was a wonderful concert...by one man and his son. Allegedly, I'll write more about it later, but I've gotten pretty bad about blog updates, so we'll see.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Incompetence Club

The club is having a meeting over to my left. That'd be the admin for this program.

Melissa (bless her heart) got pretty in-your-face to Doug today about the fact that his kid is playing computer games all day. Instead of confronting the issue, he said he "wasn't aware of specific policy yet". That is to say, he's not going to try to find out about it. Interestingly, most people started taking the side *against* her, although she's really got a point. If we're not allowed to use Skype, then why is he allowed to play games? Honestly, I don't know why they don't just firewall sites like "addictinggames.com" and "slinkycity.com" etc. Not That Hard. Steerike one.

Allegedly, yesterday at the doctor's, the doctor offered to tell him the details of scabies, but he asserted that he knew about it. And now he has no information to offer us regarding any of the details of treatment (is it fumigation or immunity-conferring?). Just that NAPIRE will pay for the pills, since it's an epidemic. Steerike two!

Tracy and Melissa and I also approached them about communication in general--for example, nobody got told that Sammie was leaving until after she left. Some people knew (like me), and some people got told (like Jeremy, who seems to be enchanted by her inaccessibility--myself, I consider it merely wonder at the incomprehensible)...but most people had no idea that she was gone until she'd left. Then, Melissa started talking about how nobody'd been really informed about scabies ("You guys just said 'one, or two, or maybe six people might have scabies. You should all take medicine'"), Doug said "Well that was all the information I had--would you rather that I had waited until I had all the information?" (see strike 2 above) She said no, but it *would* be nice to have it taken seriously. And then she said "and we just have really bad communication in general...like, nobody knows what's going on." And THEN he said (in his I'm-a-snob-and-you-are-dumb/unreasonable voice) "Can you give me examples?" Scabies. Sammie leaving.

And Marcela tried to say that it was because of the short notice for Sammie leaving (and other people leaving, too...as they have, throughout the summer)...and then I said that they'd manage to call meetings with about 6 hours notice, so 24 or 36 hours notice shouldn't be a problem...and so they got on their high horses about how "calling a meeting like that really inconveniences everyone". Strikes 3-6 right there.

Send those suckers outta here. Incompetence.

Every now and again at Cornell, I get to the point in a course where in order to stay on the civil side of a screaming, swearing fit (during class), I fantasize about exactly how vitriolic my Course Evaluation will be. I think about phrases like "total ineptitude" "lack of preparation" "unwilling to help students or become interested in their work" and "inability to communicate clearly". I think of words like "incompetence" "uninspiring" and "unprofessional". And then I try to think of meaner ones...It's gone beyond "Do not talk to, around, or about ___".

This is war.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Beatings will Continue until Morale Improves

Well, let's see.

First, my first project was infeasible. And I contend that I could've been told that three weeks (or a couple months) before I realized it, the night before we were going to start the projects. But that's ok. We can put the reading, research, and planning I did down to general educational experience, right? And the fact that I got a little hung out to dry...that's what mentors are supposed to do, right? It helps you learn. Learn by Doing.

So then, my second project didn't work because we caught no lizards. We caught and starved a shrew to death, which saddens me a lot, because...shrews are just off limits. Any animal that has to eat at least every 15 minutes or starve...you just have to feel bad for it. And messing with them is not cool. So that project didn't work.

So then I was supposed to...study...squirrels. Yeah. I went to Costa Rica for the summer to do some reasearch. Really? What did you study? Squirrels. Um...you are aware that Cornell is full of squirrels? Yes...shut up. Ok, ok, but what did you look at with the squirrels? I timed how long it took them to eat different things. With a stopwatch? Yes...stop laughing. 24 hours later, I switched mentors...at the suggestion of my first mentor.

First project with Karin was going to be looking at whether ants that are used to spiders react differently to ants that aren't used to them. But the plants died.

So the second (current) project is to see if ants smell spiders or if they learn that the spiders are there in a different way.

Found out that people are getting scabies left and right. So...some people have been told the options about that, and some people haven't. Good thing they keep us so informed.

Found out that They (that'd be OTS people in San Jose, or possibly Duke University) are pulling certain Internet abilities. Among them: Skype, Instant Messenger, GoogleTalk, and all audio/video. Why? Well, because there have been people playing online games nonstop all day, and downloading music and movies to the extent that it makes it difficult for researchers to get stuff done. I can see banning high-bandwidth programs like Skype or even Instant Messenger during "Research Hours" or something, but what about before 6:30am and after 9:00pm? I mean, it's not like I NEED to talk to my girlfriend in Africa every week (and God knows, I'll save money if I don't)...but I'd like to be able to call her. Or my parents, ya know? I'd like to be able to call them every so often without paying through the nose. And again, it's not like I NEED to talk to some of my U.S. friends online (via IM)...but I'd <like to be able to talk to them. And honestly, being able to call Africa and talk with my U.S. friends...that's what's keeping me here, instead of ETing.

Found out that my ex-mentor, Doug, has told at least one of the other mentors a Nasty Lie about me. There's nothing I can do about it, because he's coordinator of the program, and I'm not stupid enough to make him completely hate me before I'm out from under his authority. It's not such a Nasty Lie that I can't deal with it; the Nastiness comes from (a) it's a Lie and (b) it implies that it's All My Fault that we Didn't Get Along as mentor/mentee. Actually, my reason for switching mentors was (ostensibly) that he didn't have a project that I could be interested in at all. Lots of other reasons, but that's the official one. Or it was. It really enrages me that I'm in a position where I can't fight back at all.

Sammie is ETing (that's Peace Corps (PC) slang for Early Terminating, which basically means Going Home Early)...leaving in about an hour.

My project data are completely random in their distribution.

There are 20 days left.

I had hoped that this summer would not end up being a "count the days until it's over" situation, but so far, it has been headed that direction. I can't remember feeling this trapped in futility for a long time. Also, they make us do all kinds of stupid hoop-jumping behavior...and since they can't decide not to pay me, and since they can't *fail* me, I think I might just happen to be out in the field (deep in the jungle) during the times they've scheduled for their idiotic "group project write-ups"...we did those projects a long time ago. Remember Cuerici? Remember La Selva? THOSE are the write-ups they still haven't had us do. I stayed up late the night before I left for the U.S. to finish my "methods" section for the frogs project. Some other people haven't yet turned theirs in...and then we're supposed to get them back and finish writing the paper together, all in the next three weeks. This is a time period when, let me remind you, we're all trying to finish gathering our data, write up our major project, make and give a presentation about our major project, and pack to go back home. The attitude among the capable here is pretty much "Eff that!". Of course I group myself in that category.

In other news, it's only 26 months until August, 2009. Also, I saw whitefaced capuchin monkeys when I was hiking, the day before yesterday. And if I'm not online or posting, assume it's because of the Internet ban. I think they'd be unhappy if they knew I was using blogger, but...what're they gonna do, fail me?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Catsup V

So...on 6/24 I'm a little blank about what we did. Probably just settled in...that was the day that we had free time and nobody knew what to do with it. Yep. So, I spent my afternoon (5h) first taping duct tape over the holes in 125 plastic gallon flower pots. And then I spent 2 hours the next day with a soldering iron, putting smaller holes back into the bottoms of the pots. Yep. That's right.

Because the original holes were too big, and if I only covered part of them, the lizards we were planning to catch in the pit traps would shred their cute lil' noses trying to get out...so smaller holes were the smart way to go, that's why. Uh-huh. That's what I thought.

The two hours I spent putting the holes back were during a mentor symposium, where most of the mentors (all but Doug) kinda told us what they did. Interesting, long.

That afternoon, Doug and I went out and put in two 9-pot grids (3x3, of course)...the procedure for pit traps is so not complex that it's actually boring. You dig a hole, put the pot in it, and pack the dirt around it so things don't fall between the pot and the edge of the hole. And that was all, as far as I can remember.

I believe it was the next afternoon (we put out more traps that morning...big woop) that I called Liz and also my parents, and found out that my grandfather died. So...things got crazy...I fought with Doug about him being an uninformed yet self-defined omniscient pain about the same thing I wrote about recently (a couple entries ago), and ultimately decided to go back to the States for the service. I'm really abridging here, but...that was what that schedule was about, back there.

At some point I'll chronicle the USA trip...maybe tomorrow night. I'm almost caught up.

Catsup IV

So...the day after that (6/20, I believe), we took the same boats and the same bumpy bus ride but this time we went to a place where we had a killer long hike to a good swimming river. Carlos said there was very little hiking involved, but he lied. So nobody participated in the soccer game he'd tried to arrange for us. I felt pretty bad about that, but also pretty annoyed.

The truck that rescued us from part of the hike looked like it was pretty much held together with bailing twine. Which is funny. But to get up some of the hills, we really had to build up speed...very exciting. I was glad I was riding somewhere that would allow me to bail if I had to...fall out of enough tractors, and you always look for that possibility, I guess.

One lovely thing that happened was that a veritable tornado (maybe 20) bright yellow butterflies came and swarmed around me for a few minutes. It was...amazing, and sort of...life-affirming. But don't worry--I still managed to be crabby.

Javier, Frank, and some other great people jumped out of trees into the river. It really was a great swimming hole.

After that, we came back to where we were staying, and had a meeting with Carlos telling us about his organization. Then we had a test to see what Bribri trivia we'd managed to remember...I was one of the top three scorers (not my fault), and so I won an embarrassing number of prizes--three CDs and 3 books. I gave two of the books to Sammie because she really...will use them much more than I will. The third book is in Spanish, and I'll offer it to Rodo for the Las Cruces library. The CDs I'm keeping, though.

After that...well....nothing really happened.


The next day, I felt kinda icky. We were on our way back to San Jose...so we made it, and some of us went downtown. I was looking for a nice hammock (didn't find one, but I'll keep looking)...I rescued Carol from a pickpocket, though. That was exciting. We were walking along, and Carol is this really white-haired lady who looks like she's a little helpless...so I was walking slightly behind her to keep an eye on her bag. It seemed a little ridiculous to me, but I felt dumb not doing it because I felt silly. So this macho looking guy in sunglasses began walking right in front of her (non-crowded sidewalk), and then he drastically slowed down, while this girl that had been walking with him put out her hands and grabbed Carol's bag. I grabbed her arms and threw them off and put my body between Carol and her...I may have just scared the crap out of an honest mistake, but there was a LOT of room on that sidewalk, and there was no reason for them to surround us like that. Any case, she bought me (Carol, not the pickpocket) an ice cream to thank me. We went all around the covered market, and I bought way too many mamones.

Then we went back to meet the Eiflers at the Gold museum. While I was waiting outside (Carol went in to see the gift shop), eating mamones, a girl with bright red hair (natural) walked by and looked funny at my bag of mamones. So I asked her if she wanted to try one...and she did, so we sat together on the bench and ate mamones and talked about her study abroad in Columbia and my NAPIRE. I don't remember her name, but she was pretty neat.

It rained on us while we walked back. We went to dinner at a place that had HORRIBLE (ZOMG) pesto....and then people went "out". I didn't go out because I was starting to feel ill...partly because of the pesto, and partly just eww.

So I stayed behind and within a few hours I was very, very sick. I ended up spending the night alone, because one of my roommates fell asleep with her key, and the other one didn't want to wake me up. Just as well, because the toilet and I made good friends--people, I was SICK.

The next day (6/22), people went to some reservation or something, and I stayed in bed trying to keep tylenol in and moaning and wishing that someone was there. And sleeping. Maria took really good care of me, actually. Kudos and thanks to her...she was great. They were doing construction exactly through the wall, though...so I got to experience the Zen of sleeping through pounding on the wall next to me and chainsaws etc....

The next day (6/23), I could walk. Barely. And we...brought the bus back to Las Cruces. Pretty uneventful. I got good Karma by carrying Carol's bag full of (rocks? Jeez, it was HEAVY!!!!!!) and then by switching rooms with Charlene so that she could be with Melissa and Tracy and I could be with Tanika and Sammie. Which has been turning out better than I expected.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Ketchup III

6/19

* Crossed river to Bribri reservation in big wooden canoes with motors on the back, and a black plastic duct-tape-esque canopy for the guy steering

* Very bumpy ride in bus. Bus had sticker on window: "Cree usted en Alberto? Yo tampoco" (Do you believe in Alberto? Me neither)...I don't know if it was political, but it was funny.

* We passed the nicest restaurant (perhaps the only restaurant) on the reservation...it's built in a tree. Partly in a tree and partly on the side of the hill next to the road.

* We went on "a short hike" to the holy river and I swam in my clothes.

* We met this ancient man named Enrique who is the keeper of the river, pretty much. He lives in this amazing house with no walls, just walls up to...about waist height, and then a wonderful thatched roof....it's all held together with rope. He has a tilapia pond, with a water supply that comes through pipes of split palm or bamboo trunks.

* We tried the fruit that is on the outside of cocoa beans.

* We went to have lunch at the "cultural house"...lunch was cooked by the granddaughter of the last king of Talamanca...so, the princess. She owns the tree restaurant.

* I bought a beautiful water gourd, that is actually a cocoa nut of some sort hollowed out.

* We took part in a ceremony to welcome and purify us. They had us breathe vapors from a pot (smelled like a tea and was pretty relaxing...the same way that too much chamomile is relaxing) and then wiped us gently with a singed leaf.

* We tried to shoot traditional arrows...not fletched and as long as my armspan, almost.

* On the busride back, we had a tire blow out. I had a coke in a glass bottle for less than a dollar.

* Mentioned to Jeremy that it would be pretty funny if the Bribri were just making it all up, and we were totally serious about all of it. I don't actually think they were, but if I were them, I might be tempted. Stupid whities.

* Had a discussion about who's a "Good Indian". I told everyone that I was sick of stupid racism and putting Indigenous cultures above others categorically. Sick of hypocrisy. Said that I didn't know much about my tribe, but what my father had taught me about being an Indian was that you try to be kind and compassionate, and give people slack, and don't judge them, and accept them. And that really is, as far as I'm concerned, what it's all about. There wasn't really a good refutation of my calling out of specific people... I did mildly call a specific person out, but Doug deflected that. But that's ok, because the question ("So is the best way to educate people to intimidate them and act like they're stupid if they don't know as much as you?") was the important part, not the answer. Hooray for pointed, rhetorical questions. Charlene was a lovely person afterwards, though. Doug was an asshole afterwards, but honestly. It's kind of what I've come to expect.

As of July 3, he hasn't made much effort to understand me. He's told me he doesn't wanna hear about my issues with other people, and says I'm too negative. But he doesn't see the times I am kind to them, go out of my way for them, and so on...he doesn't see any of it, partly because he doesn't look for it. And I think part of the reason he doesn't look for it is because he doesn't expect it to be there. In any case, there isn't a single person here I haven't made an effort with, and repeated those efforts. In fact, I'm so nice here that most people wouldn't recognize me. Doug makes basically no effort with me, and he's not....fair or helpful. Erin, it just occurred to me that you may read this, and I hope that you can either forget it or not take it personally...because I don't want to delete it, but I also don't want to hurt or offend you.

In any case. It's past my bedtime here. More ketchup at some point.

Ketchup II

6/18:

* Talked with Doug about racism, and his response was that (basically) when people do that, and try to raise ALL indigenous cultures above ALL white cultures, it's them trying to raise themselves up instead of put you down. Which is the same thing, but the focus is important.

* Left La Selva...saw Andon, and he just gave me a big ol' hug when I left, so that was nice.

* Slept on Charlene's shoulder (which was touching and nice and overall pretty sweet of her, since my seat had no back, and I was getting pretty extreme sleep-whiplash)

* After we arrived, we turned around and went to the beach. I can now say that I have waded in the Caribbean. It was warm. And itchy.

* Dinner was uneventful...I fell asleep pretty much right away.

Another series of ketchup

6/15 (La Selva)

We got up extra early, went out and stuck pushpins into trees/logs/leaves where we saw bluejeans frogs singing from. In the afternoon, we measured about eight things about each perch. This day, I was pretty annoyed by Sammie, and complained about stuff to Andon. I broke down at lunch, and just started crying and couldn't talk about why I was so upset, which boiled down to:

(a) I was correct about a measurement we were supposed to take. In fact, taking that measurement according to a parameter (as opposed to indefinitely) was Doug's idea. When he found out that my group was taking measurements that way he challenged me and said that if it'd been his idea then he must've been not thinking very well. Then when I showed him where I wrote it down that he'd said it, he got snippy with me and told us to change what we were doing, "because everyone else has been doing it a different way". Huh. So that pushed my first big button (getting in my way when I'm doing a competent job).

(b) Sammie was excessively negative and judgmental...I took a thumb-sized piece of bread to go feed the machacas (those fish I wrote about) and instead of being neutral, ignoring it, or anything else, she decided to say "Dude, weren't you paying attention when they said we were giving all the animals diabetes?"....Ok, first of all, she's got a larger point. But (i) Not all the animals have diabetes, just monkeys and so (ii) if she's not even going to pay attention to the science lectures, then she's got no cause to jump in and get on my case. She also was in my measuring group and was ... basically no help. In fact, she was antihelpful.

(c) Maria was the other person in my group, and she pulled Doug into every little discussion of stuff...which although totally not her fault, ended up with me upset at her because I was upset at Doug...

But that day we also saw: a two-toed sloth, a three-toed sloth, lesser anteater, turtle (I found it!), an armadillo, and some white-faced capuchins (monkeys).

The next day was our "Tourist Day"...that's my word for it. We went whitewater rafting in the morning...which was fun. It was paddle boats, which was new for me...but it wasn't very exciting. At all. I didn't say anything, and I didn't want to, because I really don't wanna be that person who ruins it for everyone by saying "This is soooo tame". But there were about two holes (2h or 3h trip) that were mildly exciting. We're talking...riffles. And I haven't been rafting for a while, but honestly, the scariest part for me was when they started playing the "let's have the customers fall into the water" games. I hate falling into the water.

Later that day, we went canopying...which I thought would be scarier than it was. Especially because I have a strong and irrational (sometimes) fear of falling. It was just great fun...the idea of "canopying" is a little misleading because what we actually did was just go through the...forest. I was really glad that we did it...although I felt bad that Natasha and Faiane didn't go...it didn't seem like there were as strict of number requirements as we thought. It mildly annoyed me that nobody really stood up and said thanks...I mean, I didn't do it to be thanked. But still. Oh well. I'm over it.

That night, Carlos, our guide for the Bribri reservation (we'd thought he was fluent in Bribri...turns out, he's not.) came and talked to us. I learned several things about the Bribri, Carlos, and our group:
(a) Carlos has the kind of enthusiasm for the Bribri culture that your scaryotype born again Christian has for Christianity.
(b) White people don't own the market in the racism department
(c) There's lots of racism in our group
(d) Even though I know very little of my tribe's culture and traditions, I have just as strong an idea of how to be a "good Indian" as everyone else, and although it goes directly against my beliefs as stated, I have strong ideas about who is and who isn't a "good Indian".
(e) Carlos does not know when to shut up
(f) The people in charge of this program aren't capable of keeping him or the racists in line.
(g) Some people think that simply because you're part of an Indigenous Culture, that makes you/your beliefs categorically better than those of us who are of White Cultures (I haven't asked them yet what if you're from France or something...which means that you're kind of...white and also indigenous...somehow that doesn't strike me as a useful conversation to have).

So there's a lot of ranting that goes along with that...but that's the basic 4-1-1 on the talk. Later that night I hung out with Javez and Natasha and Faiane...who weren't any more tolerant of vegetarianism as a valid (as valid as indigenous ideas, for example)...but I enjoyed hanging out with Andon more. We talked about lots of things...I really like him, because there's no crap. We just converse, and there's not awkwardness about male-female (I hate that), there's not drama about disagreeing because we're both able to chill out, and we have a similar sense of humor.